Ultra-broadband isn't just for big-city folks

Next Generation Communications Blog

Ultra-broadband isn't just for big-city folks

By: Arnaud Legrand, Customer Marketing Manager, Alcatel-Lucent

From original TechZine article

Rural communities and small cities need fast broadband access to prosper in an increasingly globalized and connected world. Municipal governments recognize the socioeconomic benefits that ultra-broadband connections can bring. Many also understand the technical and financial challenges involved in bringing these connections to small communities. Still, most municipalities lack a clear strategy and implementation path  for realizing their ultra-broadband vision.

Cities like Opelika, Alabama and Chattanooga, Tennessee have proven that the transformative benefits of ultra-broadband are within reach for smaller population centers. Both cities have successfully deployed fiber networks that deliver gigabit speeds and services to homes and businesses. Their citizens now enjoy ultra-broadband experiences that had previously been unknown outside the world’s elite cities.

So how can your small city or rural community emulate the success of Opelika and Chattanooga? There’s no universal ultra-broadband deployment strategy. But there are fundamental steps you can follow to build a fast network that lets your citizens and businesses thrive.

Building a sound business case

A well-developed business plan is the foundation for ultra-broadband success. 1 key part of the development process is to choose a viable business model. 2 business models are possible for municipalities seeking to build ultra-broadband community networks:

  • Open access: The municipality owns the network and supports broadband services through partnerships or lease agreements with other retail companies. In some cases, the network may be owned by a separate broadband entity, such as a power company.
  • Full retail: The municipality or separate entity owns the network and provides all retail broadband services to citizens, customers and businesses.

Your resources, regulatory environment and strategic goals will determine your best way forward.

To support your chosen business model, you need to establish a clear financial blueprint and identify reliable funding sources. Your best sources may include municipal bonds, community loans, private investments, and government grants.

You can build momentum and improve your chance for success by encouraging more stakeholders to embrace and invest in your ultra-broadband plan. To this end, it’s important, after assessing the plans of existing telecom service providers, to engage with schools, hospitals, and businesses from an early stage. It’s also important to consult a telecom lawyer who can help you create a corporate entity that can effectively handle funding and operations.

Turning ideas into action

A sound business case is 1 crucial component of a much broader deployment process. Whatever your vision and starting point, you can secure ultra-broadband success by adopting a process that incorporates 5 steps:

  1. Define your vision for the network: Lay out a vision for what your network will do now and in the future. Do you want to support triple-play services? How about smart grid services or other revenue-generating services? By establishing a clear vision from the start, you will be better positioned to turn the vision into reality.
  2. Build a sound business case: Determine whether your current human and technology resources can be applied to the new network. Pinpoint gaps that demand new resources. Talk to peers in other regions to learn about their experiences with broadband networks. Use all of this information to build a sound business case and identify reliable funding sources.
  3. Conduct feasibility studies: Engage with independent consultants to evaluate your marketplace and validate your chosen business case. Use focus groups and local financial data to ensure that your community will embrace your ultra-broadband network vision.
  4. Design your network and services: Map out a network and/or services that can support your validated business case. Take the design to RFP and select a partner that has the technology and experience to deliver on all your requirements.
  5. Roll out your network: Deploy the network with a solution includes operations support from your partner of choice. An ideal solution will allow you to deliver an excellent level of service while developing your own broadband skills and experience. You need an experienced partner that will help you create a network that can serve the community for decades to come.

Get started today

Communities around the world have transformed their economic and social future with ultra-broadband networks. Yours can be the next to do so. How can you get started? Talk to peers and engage with prospective partners and investors. Look at different technologies – fiber, wireless, or a combination of both – that can help you define and execute on a new broadband vision. Think about what skills your community needs to reap the benefits of ultra-broadband. There’s no need to wait to join the world’s elite connected communities. You can start building your ultra-broadband future today.

Related Material

Chattanooga case study
Opelika case study
Alcatel-Lucent governments web page
Municipality Rural Ultra-Broadband brochure

To contact the author or request additional information, please send an email to techzine.editor@alcatel-lucent.com.

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